Plant Collector: Ornithogalum arabicum

The lovely Ornithogalum arabicum

The lovely Ornithogalum arabicum

I am so delighted to see several of these in bloom in the rockery this spring. I planted flowering sized bulbs a few years ago and they failed to reappear for probably the last two seasons. I assumed they did not like our conditions but apparently they will, upon occasion, bide their time.

Sometimes known as the Arabian star flower or the Star of Bethlehem flower (this may depend on whether one is Islamic or Jewish, maybe?), I have also seen O. arabicum referred to as a black-eyed Susan although that is more commonly ascribed to rudbeckias. Whichever, each lovely, creamy white flower looks as if it has a black bead in the centre, surrounded by soft yellow stamens. The foliage appears to die off as the flower comes and it sits at about 30cm high, without needing staking – just the right height to sniff the pleasant fragrance. It is reputed to be good for picking but I will need a whole lot more in the garden before I’m willing to cut them.

This particular ornithogalum comes from the Mediterranean area so is going to be happiest in full sun with well drained conditions. Other species come from Europe and South Africa and they all belong to the order of hyacinthaceae. Believe it or not, there is a Facebook page for O. arabicum which has some lovely photographs though only 73 “likes” as one says in Facebook parlance.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.